Salary man or entrepreneur, take your pick

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad has gone back to his negative-comment days of yore in his campaign for votes.

It wasn't enough that he took the oft repeated "Malays are lazy" campaign most of us were barraged with for 22 years, he now says it is demeaning to be a nasi lemak seller and a driver with a ride-hailing company.

Let's look at the facts. According to a Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF) report published last month, unemployment stood at 509,000 in October after peaking in August at 519,000 – which puts the rate at 3.5% of 15.09 million officially employed workers in Malaysia.

However, the report notes that there were 145,200 job vacancies recorded in September.

There are a few reasons for this mismatch: first, it could be senior posts not made available to the unemployed youths. Second, it could be that the youths are not educated in the sector that is being demanded by the employers or find the sector not to their wants.

Or third, there are just people who choose to be nasi lemak sellers and drivers while also being entrepreneurs in their own right. Or fourth, they cannot get a job because they are discriminated against.

The second reason is a given. The MIDF report points out that the jobs offered were not in glamorous sectors, with 75,600 vacancies in manufacturing, and 28,000 vacancies in services. There are also some 18,000 vacancies in construction.

By job type, there was a need for 14,200 plant and machine operators and assemblers.

So, the government has not failed to create jobs, but there is a mismatch of jobs and skills of the new generation joining the workforce.

So, the failure of youths to gain employment is not a failure in government.

There is nothing wrong with selling nasi lemak, especially when you note that those running food stalls are those who may not have any other job opportunities open to them in a company other than to be office boys or tea ladies.

Similarly, there are those who find it difficult to get jobs because of who they are and how they look.

Case in point, the well-known nasi lemak seller in Bandar Sri Permaisuri. Why? Because Jojie Kamaruddin is transgender.

Of course, it also helps that her reputation has reached all the way to Canada, and that she's rated four stars on Google.

You have to ask: Is this a failure in education, or is this the desire to venture out and do something to earn more than what an office job will pay?

Now, let us move on to ride-hailing drivers. I'm not sure who briefed Mahathir, but many drivers are those who retired early or were retrenched. Also, many of them drive part time because they want to supplement their income.

They are college students trying to avoid another "mahasiswa lapar" debacle and reducing the burden on their parents.

They earn commissions selling insurance, property, and direct sales products, and are dependent on networking.

They are those who run their own cafes, teach music, or are involved in forex trading – though, they probably won't lose RM30 billion in their ventures.

Many become part of the ride-hailing service to bolster their income while also working in the sectors they studied for in colleges and universities because they can use their cars to generate more disposable income and their careers are dependent on networking.

So, these are the two different mindsets in our prime minister candidates in the next general election.

Mahathir wants you to get a job in a government-linked company or a private company and be a white-collar worker like the Japanese salary man.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak also wants you to get a job, but believes in allowing Malaysians to work by themselves, become entrepreneurs, take small loans for stalls, get funds from angel investors or Teraju if you have a brand, and do what you are passionate about – your choice.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com